Collective Wisdom

20 July 2008

There is a very long article by Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, The Tipping Point) in the May issue of the New Yorker about how we might think that Big Ideas are rare, but that they might be fairly common. It is well worth the investment of reading time as it is a celebration of ideas and the sheer joy of thinking. Thinking about what? Anything and everything. The kind of rambling thinking that happens when you get people together and just let the conversation flow. Real and true brainstorming---the very sort that fills you with energy and makes you believe you can change the world.

I've been thinking about what this might mean to the educational arena. All of the examples in the article are more science or business related: what happens when you bring together smart people with diverse backgrounds and give them an idea to play with. Can we do this with schools, too? We're so regimented in our ways. We depend on tried and true (with good reason). If we have students we aren't reaching, why don't we get together and brainstorm instead? Why do we constantly seek to eliminate possibilities and deduce a solution rather than go out with our colleagues for a pitcher of beer and a conversation?

My hunch is that most people would say that we don't have the time to do so. Does this mean that we are too busy to think? Or, even sadder, that we don't value the creativity that comes in engaging our brains?

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